The Allie Way – Working through the Woes of the Work Week

I started my current job last October. There are definitely some things that are great about it. My manager is so nice, and some of my co-workers are awesome people.

But I am finding my job incredibly anxiety-provoking. I was a little nervous when I started off, as I always have been and I’m sure I will be with any job. But I figured as I got more comfortable with it, those nerves would start to go away. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened.

There are three main things that contribute to my growing anxiety.

1. A phobia that I have to face at work.

2. A co-worker who makes me feel bad about myself.

3. Getting in trouble for flukes or things that I have not been trained how to do.

In my interview process, I specifically asked not to have a certain task, due to a phobia that I have had since I was about 5 years old. (I did not specify the reasoning, since I find this particular phobia to be a very personal matter, but I did make it clear that I felt strongly against working in one area). When I was hired, I did not think I would have to come in contact with the phobic stimulus, but upon my first day, I found out that I was required to. I have been working on my phobia a lot in the past few years, and thought I could handle it. So I didn’t tell anybody. But I found it to be more difficult than I had thought to balance the phobia while being trained and while trying to keep up a friendly smile for the customers, etc. One day, I made a stupid mistake because I was so overly-anxious and one of my co-workers (we’ll call him Co-Worker X) made me feel really bad about it. I was mortified and ended up hiding behind some racks in the big cooler to cry for a few minutes. Co-Worker X saw that I was upset. The next day I explained my phobia to him, and he was actually really nice about it. He didn’t tell anyone and he actually started stepping up and racing to do the task I was afraid of, to make sure I didn’t have to deal with it, which I REALLY appreciated. Though it was kind of awkward because our other co-workers didn’t understand what he was doing and kept telling him I had to do it instead. But I was really grateful.

But the thing about Co-Worker X is that I can’t tell what kind of a person he is. I was warned by… well, everyone when I first started working there that he was a jerk. Well, the words they used were a little less appropriate than “jerk,” but you get the idea. But then when he stepped up like that, I thought they were all wrong about him. And sometimes when we talk he is super nice to me and funny and we get along really well, so I don’t mind him. But I did realize over time, I think he only started doing that task that I hated so much because he actually prefers it over almost everything else. So he would send me out to do everything else while he did that. I didn’t mind, and I honestly still don’t, because I prefer everything else. But I can’t help but wonder if more of his motives for jumping up and saving me were selfish and less were about helping me out.  Anyway, regardless, the other problem is that he really does put me down a lot. There was a big incident at work last week where I followed all the procedures exactly like I was supposed to, but something went wrong and I ended up getting in trouble. It was actually a really exhausting experience (I ended up sobbing in a bathroom stall instead of a cooler this time, cliché as that sounds), and I won’t get into the details, but Co-Worker X kept exaggerating the situation and making it sound like I had messed up way worse than I had. In fact, I don’t even feel ok saying I messed up, because I did everything right! It was very upsetting. And he kept talking down to me, even when he clearly could see I had been crying over it. He’s worked there a lot longer than I have, and I felt like nobody really believed me when I said I had followed protocol. In the following days I even found out from other co-workers that X had been blabbing about my “mistake” to everyone and putting me down as a worker.

Another co-worker was amazingly nice to me though, and I appreciated him so much. The fact that he was there was probably the main reason I didn’t make a rash decision and run out of there as fast as I could. He even asked me if Co-Worker X had said anything mean to me, but I said no. Because he hadn’t actually said any one specific terribly nasty thing, it was just the general way he was treating me. And, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t talk about the situation without starting to cry again, and I didn’t want anyone to see that so I just shook my head when I was asked.

But the thing is, Co-Worker X is going nowhere. He doesn’t have a job besides this same minimum-wage part-time job that I have, and he lives at home with his mother. He didn’t finish school. Honestly, I don’t care how he lives his life. I’m not judgmental of that. And he has a job which is great. But he also makes a lot of mistakes at work too, and he doesn’t follow protocol a lot. And no one gives him a really hard time about any of that because, for the most part, my co-workers are nice. I called my mom after the big incident at work and she and I realized that he probably just has to put other people down to feel better about himself, and to draw attention away from his own mistakes.

Anyway, needless to say, I keep wanting to quit, and Co-Worker X is a lot of the reason why. But the facts remain that I need money, and quitting now would not be fair at all to my manager, who I actually really like. (Several people have left my department for various reasons since I was hired, and we are always in need of more people). I often have trouble sleeping the nights before I work. I eventually told my manager about my phobia, but unfortunately it will always be part of my job requirement to handle that. And I have also expressed my dislike for working with Co-Worker X, but I did it politely. (Additionally, he’s been really rude to a new worker in our department, and a lot of us have used the opportunity to express our issues with him). I realize that all jobs are tough and there will always be people you don’t like. I just need to keep pushing forward. At least I have a job. And I do realize that I need to learn to stand up for myself more… which is currently a work in progress for me.

Have you ever had a day so awful that you didn’t know how you would recover from it? What did you do? How DID you recover? And how do you handle unkind co-workers? I’d love to hear some of your coping strategies!

For me, it has a lot to do with looking at the positive and trying to stay rational. I am always looking for ways to stay strong and make the situation easier. When the present isn’t cutting it for me, I focus on the future. I’ll be grateful for these experiences someday, I think. I don’t like to think of myself as a quitter, or someone who runs away from problems. So I intend to keep pushing forward and trying not to let Co-Worker X get to me too much. Now that he’s shown his true colors, it’s a bit easier to anticipate when he will be cruel, and so I intend to keep strengthening my emotional defenses. If for no other reason, I’m running out of isolated places to cry! ;)

Keep believing in the positive!


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